Eighteen Auto Makers Are Competing in IMSA-Sanctioned Series in 2023
By Bryce Kelly
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – IMSA stands at the dawn of an exciting new era at the start of the 2023 season, with the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class debuting alongside the existing and growing GT Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The bedrock of that optimism and growth? Incredible automotive manufacturer participation across the WeatherTech Championship and other IMSA-sanctioned series.
Eighteen iconic manufacturers from around the globe are set to take the spotlight as the 2023 IMSA season kicks off with the 61st running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona this week at Daytona International Speedway. The Rolex 24 features a maxed-out entry list of 61 cars.
While all eyes may be on the Rolex 24, action actually began this past weekend with the Roar Before the Rolex 24 that included the first races in the IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, the newest IMSA series featuring Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) and GT4-specification cars. Six manufacturers are competing in the inaugural season in the GSX (GT4 cars) class.
The Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires kicks off its third year under IMSA sanction with 45-minute races on Thursday and Friday. The single-make series features identically prepared Mazda MX-5 cars.
The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge boasts 12 different manufacturers in its two classes – GS (Grand Sport) and TCR (Touring Car). The opening 2023 race is the BMW M Endurance Challenge, a four-hour event Friday on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile Daytona circuit.
The Rolex 24 At Daytona is the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s longest race, kicking off a season in which fans across North America will have a chance to see the beauty and power of the 11 iconic manufacturers competing in the series.
The WeatherTech Championship’s new top class in 2023 is GTP, a name that heads “back to the future” by recalling the glory competition days of the 1980s and ‘90s, combined with the futuristic addition of hybrid power.
Acura, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche all are fielding entries in the new-look GTP, which replaces the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class. Each manufacturer has unique bodywork styling for its cars and uses bespoke internal combustion engines paired with single-source hybrid powertrains – placing renewed emphasis on fuel economy and sustainability. The GTP cars, built to LMDh technical regulations developed by IMSA and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), also will be permitted to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Here are the 18 manufacturers racing in IMSA in 2023, with a look ahead to this week’s Rolex 24 activities and the season as a whole (alphabetical order):
Acura: Acura won the final two Rolex 24s with the DPi class. The manufacturer looks to continue its winning ways with two teams running its Acura ARX-06 in GTP: Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian and Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport. Tom Blomqvist won the Motul Pole Award aboard the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura on the Rolex 24 in qualifying on Sunday. Two teams also represent Acura in the GTD class: Gradient Racing and Racers Edge Motorsports with WTR.
Alfa Romeo: The Italian manufacturer fields the KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering entry in the Michelin Pilot Challenge TCR class, looking to repeat as winner of the class at Daytona.
Aston Martin: The Heart of Racing Team returns as the GTD champion of the WeatherTech Championship and for a second season of GTD PRO competition. Magnus Racing is back as well after finishing second in GTD at last year’s Rolex 24. A second GTD PRO entry at Daytona comes from TGM/TF Sport. The British manufacturer also took the GS championship in the Michelin Pilot Challenge and boasts seven cars for Friday’s season opener.
Audi: The Michelin Pilot Challenge’s TCR class will once again be home to Audi. Road Shagger Racing finished third in the class last year at Daytona while Unitronic/JDC-Miller MotorSports won the 2021 Daytona race. Both teams are back in 2023 for the German manufacturer.
BMW: It’s been over two decades since BMW built a top-class prototype. Now the German marque is back in the new GTP class with two cars from BMW M Team RLL. Turner Motorsport has two BMW M4 GT3s again this season, but the one featuring all-time IMSA wins leader Bill Auberlen will split time between the GTD PRO and GTD classes while the other will be strictly in GTD. And don’t forget about Paul Miller Racing, which could have taken the ’22 GTD crown had it not missed the Rolex 24. Turner’s two entries also lead a five-car BMW M4 GT4 presence in the Michelin Pilot Challenge, while the same number of BMWs were in the VP Racing Challenge opener.
Cadillac: Also moving from DPi to GTP, Cadillac Racing will look to improve upon a third-place finish in DPi last year at the Rolex 24. Chip Ganassi Racing and Action Express Racing again carry the Caddy torch. The Ganassi team has two entries for Daytona before one peels off for a full season in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Action Express will run a single Cadillac V-LMDh the entire season.
Chevrolet: Corvette Racing is celebrating its 25th season of IMSA competition with the famed yellow No. 3 C8.R back in the GTD PRO. Rebel Rock Racing carries the bowtie banner in both the Michelin Pilot Challenge and VP Racing Challenge, running a Camaro GT4.R.
Ferrari: In addition to running the single-make Ferrari Challenge North America series under IMSA sanction, the iconic Italian car manufacturer will have four of the new Ferrari 296 GT3 racers in the Rolex 24, three in GTD and one in GTD PRO. Risi Competizione finished second in GTD PRO last year at the Rolex 24, on its way to the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup title. Three Ferrari teams are entered in GTD including 2022 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring winner Cetilar Racing.
Ford: Lovers of the legendary American brand can tune into the Michelin Pilot Challenge, where Ford will have five Mustang GT4s in the GS class – some driven by NASCAR crossovers Ben Rhodes, Hailie Deegan, Harrison Burton and Zane Smith. Looking ahead, Ford is developing a GT3 Mustang that will join the WeatherTech Championship in 2024.
Honda: The Japanese manufacturer has four TCR cars in the Michelin Pilot Challenge. Two of those Honda Civic FK7 TCRs are run by LA Honda World Racing, one by HART and one by Victor Gonzalez Racing Team, which won a pair of races last year.
Hyundai: Like Honda, Hyundais can be seen in the TCR class of the Michelin Pilot Challenge, which it has dominated by winning four straight driver and team championships and three consecutive manufacturer titles. Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian has been the driving force for Hyundai and the team’s duo of Michael Lewis and Taylor Hagler is chasing a three-peat of championships.
Lamborghini: Three teams and five cars will race for the Italian giant in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Iron Lynx/Iron Dames Racing has one car in GTD PRO and two in GTD. Other GTD entries come from NTE Sport and US RaceTronics. Each team will compete in the new Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2. The manufacturer also conducts the popular single-make Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America series under the IMSA banner.
Lexus: Vasser Sullivan returns as the team fielding a pair of Lexus RC F GT3 cars in the WeatherTech Championship, one each in GTD PRO and GTD. Ben Barnicoat and the No. 14 Lexus finished second in the GTD PRO championship last year, finishing with Lexus’ first-ever endurance win at Motul Petit Le Mans.
Mazda: The Mazda MX-5 Cup is back after another thrilling campaign in 2022. Jared Thomas took home the championship and won one of the two races at Daytona. Expect a close finish, as usual, in this ultra-competitive series as more than half the 14 races in 2022 were decided by less than a half-second.
McLaren: Founded by Bruce McLaren, the British racing marque will have two different types of cars racing around Daytona. Inception Racing has a McLaren 720S GT3 competing in the GTD class of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for the full season after winning the Michelin Endurance Cup in ‘22. Motorsports In Action and Crucial Motorsports each field a McLaren Artura GT4 in the Michelin Pilot Challenge.
Mercedes-AMG: The German manufacturer is already off to a blazing 2023 start, taking the Motul Pole Award for the Rolex 24 in both the GTD PRO (No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3) and GTD (No. 57 Winward Racing) classes. Team Korthoff Motorsports and SunEnergy1 Racing also have GTD entries in the Rolex 24. There are a healthy six Mercedes-AMG GT GT4 cars entered in the Michelin Pilot Challenge race on Friday to boot.
Porsche: The ultra-successful German manufacturer is looking to win big this year, partnering with Penske Racing to create the Porsche Penske Motorsport team in the new GTP class. This team has two Porsche 963s ready to compete – and win – like the legendary Porsche 962s of the unforgettable original IMSA GTP era. Porsche also returns the GTD PRO championship-winning Pfaff Motorsports team that won the Rolex 24 last year. As did the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche in GTD. In all, there will be seven of the new 992 generation Porsche 911 GT3 Rs racing in the Rolex 24. On top of that, Porsche has four 718 GT4 RS Clubsports running in the Michelin Pilot Challenge race and the single-make Porsche Carrera Cup North America series opens its third season at Sebring in March.
Toyota: The lone Toyota team is Ave Motorsports in the GS class of the Michelin Pilot Challenge, racing a Toyota GR Supra GT4 EVO. The manufacturer is still chasing its first win in the series, but had a pair of podium finishes in 2022, with back-to-back third-place runs at Sebring and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.